Fantasia 2012: Primer on the Frontières International Co-Production Market
One of the big announcements of this year’s Fantasia is that for the first time Fantasia will be presenting the Fantasia Industry Rendez-Vous which includes a film market for the films being presented during the festival to help those filmmakers sell their films for distribution, as well as a series of conferences that are free and open to the general public – although accredited film industry representatives have priority seating.
In addition to the film market for films being presented during the festival, Fantasia will also be hosting a film market to be called Frontières: The Fantasia International Co-Production Market. That sounds exciting, but what does it mean? What impact will it have for the average Fantasia film-goer and what does it mean for the future of the Fantasia Film Festival? We spoke with Stephanie Trepanier, Market, New Media and Hospitality Director (as well as) Programmer for the Fantasia Film Festival to find out.
SOS: What is a film market?
ST: There are as many different kinds of film markets as there are film festivals that host them. It depends on how big the festival and the market are and what they specialize in. Some specialize in film, some in TV, some in Transmedia.
The biggest film market is Cannes. In addition to the films playing during the festival, there are hundreds of other films being sold outside of the festival and industry screenings for those films. It can be a very busy time for a film festival programmer or a distributor. Generally at Cannes, film agents who represent the films being sold have booths, or the bigger sales agents rent whole apartments. Film Festival programmers and distributors go from sales agent to sales agent trying to acquire specific films. Berlin is like Cannes but on a slightly smaller scale.
Toronto (TIFF) and South by Southwest (SXSW) are examples of film markets where the only films available are the films being shown during the festival. TIFF has industry screenings, but they are repeats of the public screenings; since SXSW is a badge-holder only festival, it’s like all the screenings are industry screenings. At this kind of film market, the festival programmer has become the gate keeper for films. When I was at SXSW this year, an independent film producer asked a distributor how they could get seen by the distributor if they weren’t picked by SXSW and the distributor bluntly told them that they were only interested in acquiring titles that had been selected.
I like the film market held during the Gothenburg Film Festival which specializes in Scandinavian films where we only see works-in-progress and market premiere screenings, films that aren’t being presented during the festival. It means that Gothenburg is heavily involved in the Scandinavian filmmaker community.
There is another kind of market that we are modelling ours on. Examples include the film market held during the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (Pifan), which is called NAFF, the Network of Asian Fantastic Films, the Busan project market and especially the CineMart held during the Rotterdam Film Festival which specializes in auteur films. What all those film markets have in common is that the projects are not complete. Sometimes they are works in progress with footage, but usually they are films with a script, a director and a producer looking for partners and production money to get the film made.
We had been looking for a way for Fantasia to get more involved in the film industry. We thought that the CineMart model was a good one and no one was doing what they do for genre films, at least for the Western market. Sometimes a genre film will sneak into CineMart’s selections, but other than Pifan’s NAFF no one specializes in genre film. And NAFF is exclusively for Asian co-productions. We thought that by starting a film market that specialized in genre films by Occidental filmmakers, we could fill a void and draw some attention to some deserving projects, help them find sales agents to presell to international markets or add a producer from another country. Give a boost to projects that really needed our help.
So the film projects in Frontières aren’t films that people can watch, but projects that could become films?
Exactly. They have a script, a director and a producer, but they are looking for partners. Some have a bit more material. Paul Campion (who presented The Devil’s Rock at Fantasia last year) is looking to fund his Dark Hollow project. He has already done location scouting and has pictures showing where the film would be shot.
Pontypool Changes is a sequel project which would be more closely based on the original book. The original film they set in the radio station to keep the production costs low.
Usually, Canadian producers can get feature film funding from Telefilm, Quebec producers can also get funding from SODEC and they can get money by pre-selling their project for TV broadcast, but most projects also need private funding.
If you can get a sales agent interested, you can try and pre-sell your film to the International market, but that is hard to do if you don’t have a name attached to your film. Sometimes, you can get International funding by turning the film into an International Co-Production.
How do International Co-Productions work?
There’s all kinds of ways that they can work. Sometimes the film is shot in one country, but post production is done in another. Some films shoot interiors in one country, exteriors in another. Sometimes the special effects are done in one country. Frequently, members of the cast come from the countries that are part of the co-production. It’s a way to have a diversified cast that will have appeal in various domestic markets.
Probably a good way to sell the film in those countries once the film is being distributed.
Sure. Look at this year’s Fantasia selection Eddie: the Sleepwalking Cannibal. It’s a co-production of Canada and Denmark. The lead actor Thure Lindhardt is Danish. I’m sure when the film gets released in Denmark, that they will focus the marketing around Thure. And in Canada, the marketing will emphasize the Montreal-based director (Boris Rodriguez) and the Toronto-based cast including Stephen McHattie.
So how will Frontières work as a market?
We are taking everything that we like best from all the film markets that we have seen – CineMart, Gothenburg, Busan, Pifan – and combining them together to make something that we hope will be effective and productive. The process should be a bit like speed-dating. The production teams pitch their film and then they meet with interested sales agents and producers. We have 14 films that are Frontières selections and 10 Off-Frontières selections. The Frontières selections are all at the script stage while the Off-Frontières selections are a bit more dispersed in their development process. For example, the production team for Cut Throats Nine they have been working on the film for over a year, they have Roy Dupuis, Mads Mikkelsen and Harvey Keitel attached to star in the film. Sugar Candy Blues already has 70% of the financing they need to shoot the film.
We are doing a three hour pitch session for the Frontières projects, then many meetings will take place, and hopefully some of those may lead them to find the funding they need to get produced.
What are the timelines for these projects? Assuming that they get funding, are there any projects that we could see for next year’s Fantasia Film Festival?
Depends on each project obviously, but many. All independent filmmakers are used to turning around and shooting very quickly. Used to working hard and working fast. Many of these projects could be turned around from start to finish in six months. Simon Rumley’s Sugar Candy Blues could shoot as early as September/October. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead who are presenting Resolution at this year’s festival have a project in Frontières called Strata. Given how quickly they produced Resolution, they could probably have Strata done very quickly as well.
For any films that do get made, would Fantasia automatically be where the films have their World Premiere?
That would be a very natural thing to happen, but we wouldn’t insist on it. If a film had an opportunity to play at Cannes, or another prestigious festival of that sort, we would be happy to do the North American Premiere.
So, is part of this a reaction to the fact that Fantasia has become a victim of its own success? There are so many more opportunities for genre films than when Fantasia started, it must be much harder to get World Premieres of films you want.
I wouldn’t say that we were a victim of our own success. It can sometimes be frustrating when we raise the profile of a director and then that heightened profile makes it hard for us to get their next film. And it doesn’t always work out for those directors to take their next film to a larger festival if their film isn’t given a spotlight there, isn’t given that attention that we would give it.
We have always had buyers who come to the festival, just maybe not in the same proportion as some other festivals. The Frontières market is bringing more. We think we can build a “Virtuous Circle” where we can help projects get made, boost the profile of directors and their projects, and, in turn, they can help us raise the profile of the Fantasia Film Festival, so that we are a destination festival for genre films and buyers for genre films.
For the average Fantasia film-goer, the Frontières market will change nothing about your festival experience… at least this year. But down the road, the market could make it easier for Fantasia programmers to book great films in the festival and could play an important role in helping to create great films that would be presented at the Festival. Like say a new Stuart Gordon film (Purgatory) or a new film (Keep Quiet) by Jorge Michel Grau, director of We Are What We Are from Fantasia 2010. And that is something to get excited about.